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2 youths take ride of their lives as Ferris wheel doors left open at Japan amusement park

The Shining Flower Ferris Wheel is seen at the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in this photo provided by the park.

FUJIYOSHIDA, Yamanashi -- Two passengers were taken for a wild ride on a 50-meter-high Ferris wheel as the gondola doors were left open at an amusement park near Mount Fuji in this central Japan city, the park announced Nov. 24.

    The visitors inside the gondola, aged between 10 and 19, were not injured. The amusement park, Fuji-Q Highland, has been taking safety measures recently after a number of visitors riding the popular "Do-Dodonpa" roller coaster suffered injuries including broken bones. Operator Fuji-Q Highland Co.'s President Daisuke Iwata said at a news conference, "This case occurred just as we're making efforts to restore trust; we sincerely apologize."

    Following the latest incident, Fuji-Q Highland decided to halt operations on six attractions including the already-suspended "Do-Dodonpa," the Ferris wheel, and the "Tekkotsubanchou" sky tower swinger until inspections and other measures are completed.

    According to the operator, a Ferris wheel attendant in charge of the exit noticed the gondola's doors were fully open after an approximately 12-minute-long circuit at around 9:55 a.m. Although boarding attendants are expected to close the gondola doors and lock them from outside after passengers sit inside, the visitors reportedly said that an employee left without closing the doors. The boarding attendant is apparently in a state of panic, and cannot respond to the company's requests for an interview.

    The Ferris wheel's 32 gondolas do not have seat belts, and the exposed gondola has capacity for four passengers. If the doors are closed but not locked, a safety buzzer goes off. But in this case, the buzzer was silent because the doors weren't closed. The company explained that it will introduce a system to make an emergency stop when a passenger notices something abnormal.

    The Ferris wheel was built at Fuji-Q Highland in 1995. The safety buzzer was introduced after a 2009 case in which the doors were closed but not locked.

    Iwata commented, "We'll ensure employees thoroughly recognize human error is always possible, and will strive to prevent a recurrence."

    (Japanese original by Satoru Yamamoto, Kofu Bureau)

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